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January 20, 2021

Trone: ‘Long-term hangover’ of economic crisis, pandemic to continue harm

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Lindsay Renner-Wood

CUMBERLAND — With four compounding crises in play at once, U.S. Rep. David Trone says politicians at all levels of government would do well to focus on bipartisan solutions aimed at ultimately saving lives.

During an interview Tuesday, Trone (D-Md.) said he expects the country’s opioid epidemic to continue worsening — in turn exacerbating rising rates of depression, anxiety and suicide unless action is taken, and soon.

“I think we do have a long-term, huge problem that these numbers are going to probably continue, unless we do some policy changes and do things differently,” Trone said, noting that the opioid epidemic in the United States isn’t a new problem, but one that dates back to 2000. That’s “when the opioid epidemic hit us with all the pills and the Oxycontin, etc. It then moved into heroin, meth and now of course fentanyl,” he said.

The recently-released state Opioid Operational Command Center report for the third quarter showed troubling rises in overdose deaths. Allegany County, in particular, was the worst, with a 111% increase between the third quarters of 2019 and 2020. Western Maryland as a whole saw 121 deaths between January and September 2020.

Since 2000, Trone said, more than 600,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses.

“I’m a business guy, not a politician,” Trone said. “In the business world we’re judged by the work we get done, what we got accomplished. Well, we need to get more accomplished. And we’ve got to do it in a bipartisan way. We’ve got to stop thinking like Democrats, stop thinking like Republicans and think about ourselves as Americans that are working together as a team.”

Trone said he expects the results of recent elections to aid in accomplishing more to that end. The Family Support Services for Addiction Act, which he co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), had bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate, Trone said. It passed a vote in the House, but upon moving to the Senate, “(Sen. Mitch) McConnell (R-Ky.) would never take it up. Now this time, I believe we’re going to get it taken up. And I think it’ll probably pass the Senate unanimously.”

That bill will be reintroduced Thursday, Trone said, adding that his recent appointment to the House Appropriations Committee is also “a big win.”

“It’s the most important committee in Congress, and it’s going to help us drive dollars to people that need it,” Trone said.

Lawmakers would also do well, Trone said, to first address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic collapse that it has created. Those issues, he said, have “turbocharged” the existing drug epidemic and worsened mental health for many across the nation.

“There’s a long-term hangover that’s going to continue to take lives, and make lives more miserable with mental health challenges and addiction deaths for many, many years from now, and it’s not going away,” Trone said. “There’s no silver bullet. You’ve got a graph line that keeps increasing. That line doesn’t start going backward, going down, unless a lot of good work is done.”

Trone said he and his staff have also worked closely with incoming President Joe Biden’s administration and they have “laid out a game plan of legislation and executive actions” intended to assist on all fronts.

“Those two will go a long way toward help ameliorating the suffering that we have on addiction and with mental health,” Trone said of the intent to first address COVID-19 and the faltering economy before turning focus to the aforementioned areas. “They’re not going to be the silver bullet to turn it around. But (they could help) by taking away all these economic concerns and joblessness that people have and the anxiety of being safe.”